Author Archives: Erik Brooks

Austin Power: Stueck Stars At MSOE

We love our college basketball in the Brooks family … and we had a chance to check out one of the area’s top players on Saturday.

And he’s from South Milwaukee.

Austin Stueck is a senior at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where he has scored 1,792 points after his 27 in Saturday’s loss to Aurora.

The 6-foot-3 forward is third on the all-time scoring list at MSOE and second all-time in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. This year, Austin is averaging more than 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists per game.

Just as importantly, the 2012 South Milwaukee graduate is majoring in architectural engineering and construction management, according to his bio.

(In that bio, check out video of his two buzzer-beaters in five days from 2014.)

Go Rockets!

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Filed under Schools, South Milwaukee, Sports

For The Love Of Local Paczki


Fat Tuesday is in just a few days, and there’s a way to celebrate it in South Milwaukee style — with paczki!

Wild Flour Bakery makes and sells all their Polish treats at their South Milwaukee bakery at 1205 Milwaukee Ave. Raspberry, bavarian cream, lemon and prune are available for pickup and purchase from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

Pre-orders are appreciated. Call 414-571-1298 to place your order or learn more.

Learn more about paczki here. And happy Fat Tuesday!

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Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

Taking Steps To Hold Property Owners Accountable

We are getting tougher on nuisance properties.

The South Milwaukee Common Council has passed changes to our nuisance property code, strengthening the ordinance to make it easier to hold property owners responsible for persistent police, fire, health and other calls to their addresses. From the revised code

The common council finds that any premises that has generated 3 or more calls for city service for nuisance activities within a 120 day period of time has received more than the level of general and adequate city service and has placed an undue and inappropriate burden on the taxpayers of the city. The Common Council therefore directs the Chief of Police, Fire Chief, Health Department Administrator, City Engineer, Building Inspector and Street Department Superintendent or their designee, whichever may be applicable, report the circumstances of such properties and activities to the Common Council after forwarding to the owners of the involved properties notice of assessment pursuant to this ordinance.

There is a long list of violations that could qualify here, ranging from animal waste and annoying dog complaints to complaints over discharging fireworks and open burning to noise and littering.

The fines is $100 per call/response, once a letter is sent alerting property owners to the nuisance code violations, and within the 120-day window. It can be levied as a special assessment against the premises.

I strongly support this measure. There are real costs to the city for dealing with these problems, and property owners have a responsibility to their tenants, neighbors, and city to ensure this type of activity doesn’t occur too often. This ordinance will help make them accountable.

It takes just one bad property bring down an entire block. We now have more power to stop it.


Filed under South Milwaukee

Tracking Coyotes


Coyotes are becoming an increasing part of everyday life across the county — and that includes South Milwaukee.

Take a look at the website Milwaukee County Coyote Watch, a new public database that aims to track coyote sightings across the area and learn from that data.

Here is one report from South Milwaukee from October …

We hear coyotes on a regular basis howling across the street from our house on Oak Creek Pkwy in South Milwaukee. On this date, October 12th, I watched one walk right down the middle of the street past our house at approximately 10:15pm.

Learn more about the coyote database here and here.

And here is the county’s press release on efforts it’s taking to address urban coyotes, including trapping and tagging them in Wauwatosa and West Allis.

So, what should you do if you see a coyote? First, please record the sighting on the Coyote Watch website — do not call our Health Department.

From the tracker website …

  1. Do NOT feed coyotes (directly OR indirectly – pet food left outside, fallen fruit in yard, fallen bird seed, etc.)
  2. Reinforce the fear of humans when encountering a bold or habituated coyote (chase and yell at the coyote, use projectiles – rocks/sticks, use repellents – such as a hose if it’s a backyard encounter).
  3. Keep pets on LEASH!

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also has information on coexisting with urban wildlife. Bayside also has some great tips for dealing with coyotes.


Filed under Milwaukee County, South Milwaukee

A Word On The Supposed Selling Of Parks

Seven Bridges entrance

Last week, the city received a letter from the county executive’s office asking us to take a look at how we’ve zoned our county parks. It asked us to make any changes necessary to ensure they are zoned appropriately to allow for their preservation as parks.

No problem, I thought. This is an easy one.

Parks should be zoned as parks. And we’ll make sure they are.

Then came the press releases. Like this one from the county board chairman, listing Grant Park and Rawson Park on some sort of “at-risk” list.

That helped drive media coverage like this and this, and then there was a hearing before the county board’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Friday.

Our response was the appropriate one. We have put the issue on Tuesday’s council agenda, with a plan to refer to the Plan Commission for recommendations on what, if any, rezoning is necessary. If we need to clean up zoning, we’ll make the changes.

The story should end there.

Of course, it hasn’t, and it won’t, not when politics are at play. And this whole effort stinks of politics.

Local municipalities should be kept out of county political battles. In this case, we’re being put in the middle of them.

To me, this whole exercise is crying wolf about something that is almost assuredly not going to happen. Grant Park is not for sale. I would not support it being for sale. And from what I know of the county executive and his administration, and from what the county executive has told me, he does not want to put it for sale.

But insinuating as much sure makes for a good press release, and scores some political points as the county executive election nears.

Please see through the scare tactics and the headlines.

We will stand up for our parks, minus the politics.


Filed under South Milwaukee

Made In South Milwaukee: Janet Halfmann


The latest in a regular series.

OK, so Janet Halfmann isn’t technically from here, but she’s lived here 25 years, and we’re proud to claim this terrific children’s book author as our own.

She has published dozens of books — including a number in the Brooks family collection — and her newest one (“Grandma is a Slowpoke”) is due out Feb. 15.

From her website

My mom says that I was always curled up reading a book. That’s probably why I majored in English at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI. At some point, I also fell in love with Spanish, spent a summer in Spain, and graduated with a double major, with plans to teach.

But soon after I married, I saw an ad for a home-study course in children’s writing, enrolled, started writing, and was hooked. Becoming a published children’s author became my dream. Reading books to our kids became #1 on my list of favorite things to do. I had some success as a freelance writer, selling articles to magazines like Ranger Rick and Jack and Jill.

But I wanted to make a living as a writer, which took me on the following path:

Got another degree in journalism and moved to Wichita, Kansas, to be a reporter on a daily newspaper for three years (I loved writing feature stories, but hard news not so much).

Moved to Wisconsin to help start the national magazine, Country Kids–but the circulation didn’t grow fast enough and the job lasted less than two years.

Worked for twelve years creating coloring and activity books (Little Mermaid, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street, Poky Little Puppy, and scores of others) for Golden Books in Racine, WI–a great job with wonderful coworkers!

In 1997, when Golden Books moved all of its operations to New York City and I lost my job, I returned to my original dream of being a children’s author.

I got my start on my dream by writing books for the Creative Company in Mankato, Minnesota. I visited the company for an informational interview before I decided to strike out on my own. Then when I made my decision, the company gave me the opportunity to write a series of insect books, and a children’s book author was born.

And we’re blessed to have her call South Milwaukee home.

Note: Janet will be at the South Milwaukee Spring Market at South Milwaukee High School Sunday, March 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. She’ll also be at South Milwaukee Family Literacy Night


Filed under Local Business, South Milwaukee

South Milwaukee Family Literacy Night Set For Feb. 25

South Milwaukee Family Literacy Night returns on Thursday, Feb. 25, at Rawson Elementary School.

Among the activities planned: reading student writing samples, listening to stories read aloud, creating your own book or journal and meeting local children’s book author Janet Halfmann. Students will also receive a book to take home.

The event runs from 4:30 to 7 p.m. All South Milwaukee School District elementary students are welcome. Sign up here.

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Filed under South Milwaukee